grow your own way
Today’s power hair is all-natural and celebrates individuality, but that doesn’t mean it’s wash-and-wear. Meet the high-performance products helping us look low-maintenance
The newest hair trend is all about embracing the locks you were born with.
Full disclosure: I’m really into The Bachelor. I love the drama and the dresses. I love watching the “journey to find love”, even if it’s neatly packaged into a 75-minute episode including ads (remember those?). But when the latest season starring the unlucky-in-love, but really-lucky-in-face, Matty J premiered, something was askew, particularly to this discerning beauty director’s eye (and I’m not just talking about the lack of ethnic diversity). Instead of the standard sea of identical barrel-curl blow-waves tumbling out of those black limousines, this season’s contestants sported an array of hairstyles from short bobs to airdried flips and diffused waves. It seems Channel Ten’s stylists have picked up on the cues from catwalks, red carpets and social feeds that a more natural, laissez-faire approach to hair is happening. Product sales and Pinterest boards are also showing signs of a fresh-hair era, where embracing individual, authentic hair is the new power beauty move.
For further proof, just look at Katy Perry, who ditched years of wigs in favour of a pixie cut when her new album Witness dropped, or Olivia Wilde when she made a political statement by distancing herself from her perfectly styled “Melania hair” last year. Then there was Michelle Obama, who created an internet frenzy when she stepped out with her locks au naturel.
The fashion world is celebrating individuality, too, but it goes beyond models Mica Argañaraz and Alanna Arrington’s curls being left alone on the AW17-18 runways. Surprisingly, the most powerful come-as-you-are message was sent by Victoria’s Secret (aka the motherland of the bombshell blow-wave). Last year, the brand embraced models’ unique looks, with Maria Borges and Jourdana Phillips owning the show with their natural hair.
It’s a big departure from the overly styled coifs that have dictated hair trends throughout history. In the 18th century, women used hairpieces, padding or pig fat to emulate Marie Antoinette’s soaring pompadour, while the first hot tong created face-framing tendrils in the next century. By the 1900s, women were still fighting their natural hair. From Farrah Fawcett’s feathered flip in the ’70s to the sky-high hair of the ’80s and the layered “Rachel” style a decade later, women have long tried to tame their tresses into a select few hot-right-now hairstyles.
So what’s with the shift? “The image of beauty is changing. Now women want healthy hair [that’s] low-maintenance,” says French colourist and hairstylist Christophe Robin. “Hair is the ultimate reflection of personality.” Amanda Wyllie, owner of Sydney’s Insignia Hair And Day Spa, agrees, tracking the change via the references her clients bring in. “It used to be the same celebrities over and over, but it all changed with social media,” she says. “Now I get street-style shots or influencers – normal people who look like them.”
It’s not just a wider picture-reference pool prompting the each-to-their-own hair phenomenon – new multi-tasking products and innovative ingredients are giving hairdressers and consumers the ability to enhance, instead of fight, natural texture. “The idea of a freshly washed, natural look comes down to product choices, but consumers don’t want to go through multiple steps anymore – everything has to happen instantaneously,” says hairstylist Kevin Murphy, whose new Bedroom Hair spray blends curl-enhancing properties with a texture builder to help born-with waves take shape. Other brands have got the multitasking memo: Keune’s sea-salt mousse blends the best of both formulas, while David Mallett’s Hair And Body Wash cleanses without weighing down. The Australian-born, Paris-based hairstylist says his clients want quality, not quantity, both in the salon and between appointments. “They’ll invest in a professional blow-out once a week and then use dry shampoo or volumising powder to extend the style, letting it get scrappy and piecey as the days go by,” explains Mallett.
Hair colour is also benefitting from the trend, with analysts estimating the booming category will be worth more than $35 billion by 2019 – and easy-apply colours that encourage experimentation are helping drive the growth. “Girls like Kylie Jenner having a new look every minute has changed the way people think about colour,” says Murphy. His Color Bug powder was among the first to satisfy the bright-hair-today-gone-tomorrow itch in 2011. “In 2017, it’s all about being ‘real’ – real people doing real things, even when they have a full team and five filters helping them perfect every post.”
Then there’s the rise of low-key, freehand techniques that mimic the sun’s natural effect, making strands look like your real hair, only better. “People used to get their roots done, now they’re only lightening their ends, but keep in mind those ends can be up to five years old,” says Murphy, who suggests a “multimasking” approach, where you patchwork products to treat specific needs, to keep hair in top condition. “Hair is driest around the face and on the ends, so apply more conditioner and leave-in products to those areas.”
Just like with our wardrobes, when it comes to hair, personal style has never been more celebrated – or appreciated, at least where women are concerned. “The idea of women dressing for themselves or other women, rather than for men, has filtered through to how they approach their hair,” Wyllie says. The queen of “Man Repelling” Leandra Medine once said dressing away from the male gaze is an attitude, “a love letter to individuality”. And Wyllie concurs: “Is there anything more attractive than someone being themselves?”
Argan Moisturizing Elixir, $58, Balmain, balmainhair couture.com.au SOS Serum With Peony, $19.95, Klorane, klorane.com.au Bb Color Stick in Red, $37, Bumble And Bumble, mecca.com.au Haute Performance Hair Mask, $107, Iles Formula, morphhaircare.com.au...